Lately you can’t get around on the net without reading discussions regarding the slow death of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), and to be honest, I’m surprised that it’s still being used. For starters, it’s nearly ten years old (launched in 2001) and there have been two major Internet Explorer upgrades in the last 9 years (IE7 and IE8). I suppose that several companies and/or users still use the outdated browser due to their computers’ capabilities, and if that is true, it’s time to stop pinching those pennies and upgrade. With the World Wide Web constantly expanding and changing, IE6 falls short in many regards and Microsoft will most likely have to pull the plug it before its scheduled official termination in 2014.
The following list explains why IE6 no longer complies with the new standards of today’s web needs:
- IE6 is not W3C compliant;
- IE6 does not support CSS2 (please note that the current industry trend uses CSS3);
- IE6 lacks support for modern Web 2.0 features;
- IE6 has major security issues (that have been corrected with IE7 and IE8);
- IE6 is no longer protected by the majority of virus or spyware protection software;
- Many websites no longer support IE6 as a browser, which forces IE6 to display less than optimal webpages; and
- IE6 no longer receives most of the Windows updates, no matter what OS version you own, including critical updates.
As previously mentioned, Microsoft has pledged support IE6 until 2014, but the company already recognizes that IE6 is obsolete (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer#Internet_Explorer_6). In November 2009 it launched an aggressive campaign that will run through June 2010 that encourages users to upgrade to newer versions of their browser or even switch to a different browser altogether ( http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-10406468-264.html?tag=mncol). Microsoft started by targeting holiday shoppers through eBay (and even went so far as to encourage developers to stop supporting the browser). In January 2010 Google announced that it would no longer support IE6 and was followed at the end of February by YouTube. A ceremonial funeral was held in early March (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/03/04/ie6.funeral/index.html), to which Microsoft sent a lovely bouquet of flowers and card (http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/05/ie6-funeral/). And while Microsoft will maintain a modicum of support through the expiration of Service Pack 3 (SP3) in 2014, industry buzz indicates that support will be minimal after Microsoft puts its obsolete browser out to pasture for its remaining days at the end of its campaign next month.
So far this funeral campaign has been quite effective. Twenty-three percent of Internet Explorers used IE6 in September 2009 and the number has significantly declined to 17% in January 2010. By February/March it dropped to a bit over 10% in developed countries (skewed to a larger 15% overall by use in developing countries such as China, Korea, as well as some African countries where users don’t have the same access to the web). And by April that number dropped to 7.9%.
In addition to upgrading your own software, you should look at upgrading your company websites as well to forgo IE6 optimization. When we looked at the Google analytics for the last 30 days of the sites we monitor, the 2-6% of our web visitors use IE6. Two to six percent of all web traffic is hardly worth it to keep maintaining your own website for IE6 compliance.
So like many past versions of browsers, operating systems, and even types of computers (Amiga and Commodore 64 come to mind), it’s time to put IE6 to rest and move forward with better technology and better web development. If you know anyone still using IE6, they need a tough love intervention. They (or you) may kick and scream, but keep in mind that this is for the good of all web-kind.